There is no denying that the public remains fascinated with monarchy. In the United Kingdom, the royal family commands the headlines, but paradoxically they are distant and knowable all at once. The Queen is an iconic yet reserved figure, what with the kerchiefs, the corgis, and the deftly delivered speeches at state occasions. The younger royals seem to be interested in keeping it real, engaging different publics while maintaining ‘the Firm’s’ commitment to service to the nation. Like Greek Gods or reality show contestants, when it comes to the Royals, we all have our favourites.
We have come a long way from the eighteenth century, when monarchs were branded as tyrants. At least that is the impression we get if we read the great anti-monarchical voices of the enlightenment. For Thomas Paine, ‘Monarchy and succession have laid the world in blood and ashes’. But lately historians have been taking a second look at the place of monarchy in the history of a global British empire. Hanna Weiss Muller
is Assistant Professor of History at Brandeis University. In Subjects and Sovereign: Bonds of Belonging in the Eighteenth-Century British Empire
(Oxford University Press, 2017) she shows that the relationship between ‘subjects’ and ‘sovereign’ was defined by complex and shared bonds. The book takes us around the British empire, from Quebec, to Gibraltar to Calcutta, and reveals the many ways in which the status of subject bound the empire together.
Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.